Golden-winged Warbler Habitat Enhancement
For several years Blue Ridge Discovery Center has been teaming up with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Piedmont Appalachian Trail Hikers and the US Forest Service to maintain and enhance golden-winged warbler habitat along the Appalachian Trail in northern Smyth County. The ecologically valuable tract of old field and shrubby habitat is one of the few areas with known breeding golden-winged warblers in the county. These habitat specialists require just the right mix of vegetative structure for a successful breeding season. The old field habitat that is currently found throughout the tract is in various stages of succession. If allowed to progress through succession, much of the area will revert back to forest and the diversity of wildlife that is found within the tract will decline. Habitat loss though natural and unnatural means is thought to be one of the leading causes of the drastic decline in golden-winged warbler populations across their range, so maintaining known breeding habitat is critical for the species. While the warblers are headed to Central and South America for the winter, BRDC and our partners have been conducting yearly maintenance of strategic brush hogging and non-native invasive plant control to maintain the correct ratio of structure across the tract. All of the hard work that has been conducted across the tract has assured that the golden-winged warblers will continue to find crucial breeding habitat that they need when they return to Smyth County next spring.